Tales of Byzantium by Eileen Stephenson

Why Byzantine fiction?

Some years ago I picked up a book by the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio – “The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness”. It opens with the striking story of a man who experienced an unusual brain injury that eliminated his ability to experience emotions. What

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marble slab in the Hagia Sophia bearing the name of Enrico Dandolo

Alexios I, Economics & Long Term Consequences

Alexios I Comnenus was an outstanding ruler of the Byzantine Empire. He came to the throne at a time when the empire was threatened by the Turks in the east/Asia Minor, the Pechenegs from the north, and the brilliant Norman leader, Robert Guiscard, from the west. By the end of

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Emperor Justinian I

Worst Riots Ever

This week marks 1,485 years since some of the worst rioting the world has ever seen – the Nika riots that began on Jan. 13, 532 and lasted for five days. The people of Constantinople were fiercely partisan for their chariot racing teams – you either supported the Greens or

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Museum of Great Palace Mosaics - man with green beard

Museum of Great Palace Mosaics

The Great Palace in Constantinople was home to Byzantine emperors beginning with the reign of Constantine the Great in the 4th century. Rather than just one building, the Great Palace grew to include dozens of edifices, both magnificent and large, to the more mundane. However, the structures within its walls

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Hagia Irene - mosaic cross in the dome

Hagia Irene

The Hagia Irene stands a five minute (at most) walk from the back of the Hagia Sophia, just before you reach the gates to the Topkapi Palace. It was originally built by Constantine the Great but was largely destroyed in the Nika Riots in 532. Rebuilt by Justinian I, it

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the Theodosian Walls, Constantinople

The Theodosian Walls

The greatest defensive element of the city of Constantinople were its walls, called the Theodosian Walls after the Emperor Theodosios, during whose reign the walls were built. Although named for Theodosius, he was still a boy when construction was completed by his then-regent, Anthemius, in 413. The walls stretched 6

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Pantokrator Church & Monastery (now the Zeyrek Mosque)

The Pantokrator Monastery

We visited the Pantokrator Church & Monastery (now the Zeyrek Mosque) on a rainy day in March. The building of the monastery and church on a hill not far from the Blachernae Palace was begun by the Empress Irene, the wife of John II Comnenus, and finished after her death

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the leaning pillar of Hagia Sophia

Uncommon sights at Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia has many important things to view when you visit, many of which are often photographed. I thought I would share a few photos of lesser known aspects of this great museum. As it happens, all of them were taken in the women’s gallery. This is what I

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Byzantine Empress Zoe

Six Byzantine women who ruled the Empire.

Almost from its earliest days, the Byzantine Empire had women who ruled – either in their own name or as regent. Typically, a male ruler who could lead armies was preferred, but intelligent and strong-willed women, or women in a fortunate dynastic spot, still found their way to the highest

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Byzantine Empress Zoe

The Top Three 11th Century Byzantine Historians

Eleventh century Byzantium was at or near its peak in terms of wealth, sophistication, and learning. Literacy reached down into its middle classes, including girls, and a number of histories written during that period have survived. The top three – in fact, the only three that I know of –

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